238. Telegram 1648 From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State1

1648. Subject: Courtesy Call on General Somoza by General Wm. Rosson, CINCSO.

1. On March 14 General William Rosson, Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, visited Managua and paid a courtesy call on General Somoza accompanied by the Ambassador and Colonel Murphy, U.S. MilGrp Commander. During the course of the conversation General Somoza outlined some of his views on the future social and eco[Page 653]nomic developments of Nicaragua. General Somoza said that as a result of the earthquake it was clear to him that there would be a very significant change in the social and economic life of the country. He characterized this development as he foresaw it on a number of occasions as a “revolution.” He stated that the “revolution” would be entirely peaceful and that he was prepared to lead such a transformation in Nicaraguan life. Somoza said that it was clear to him that many of the patterns that existed prior to the earthquake would never be reestablished—that the individuals who had been small entrepreneurs more or less tied to a wealthy class which owned the buildings and facilities of downtown Managua, were now finding themselves able with the assistance of small loans and more flexible areas of opportunity to establish their own small businesses on a more independent basis and that this would inevitably create a much larger and more important middle class with-out ties to the wealthy classes and that this new middle class would have the opportunity to rise rather rapidly in the economic and social life of Nicaragua. Somoza also pointed out that a great deal of the inherited wealth of the country was in the ownership of the central City of Managua which had been badly destroyed and that this would tend to reduce their sense of authority and power over those less economically fortunate. The high price of cotton, coffee, beef, and other agricultural items, were tending to make the rural areas of Nicaragua more important economically and to bring more income on a more widely disbursed basis to the rural population, which would tend in and of itself to shift the social and economic structure of the country. Somoza emphasized that he felt that this was a very healthy development for Nicaragua and that he believed that the increased prosperity of the middle class and an enlargement of this class would contribute to a healthier development of the country and that he (Somoza) was prepared to encourage in every way possible such forward development.

2. Somoza reiterated that he welcomed this “revolutionary” change and felt that it would contribute to a more desirable future situation in Nicaragua.

Shelton
  1. Summary: Somoza told the visiting Commander of the U.S. Southern Command that he believed the December 1972 earthquake would lead to significant social and economic changes and that he was prepared to lead Nicaragua through those changes.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]. Confidential. Repeated to Guatemala City, San Salvador, San José, Tegucigalpa, and USCINCSO for POLAD. In a March 15 letter to Country Officer Stuart Lippe, Deputy Chief of Mission Warner wrote from Managua that he and Political Officer James Cheek disagreed over the extent to which the earthquake and its aftermath had affected Nicaraguans’ political attitudes, with Cheek believing that “people are more willing to criticize the government openly and to confront it and do battle for their ideas,” while Warner was inclined to believe that “if the reconstruction and the economy go well during the next few months, the present muttering and grumbling will mostly fade away.” (Ibid., ARA/CEN/N Files, Lot 76D179, POL 15 Government, N–1973)